With Penn State-Pitt just days away, James Franklin will speak to the media at his weekly press conference on Tuesday — but first, Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi talked about the anticipated matchup.
In Narduzzi’s Monday presser, the Panthers coach discussed Saquon Barkley, Pitt’s role as an underdog and why he’s not letting players speak to the media this week.
Here are a few takeaways:
▪ Last year, Narduzzi was the lone Pitt voice leading up to the Penn State game — and it’s the same this year.
Narduzzi said he’s not scared that one of his players will say something regrettable or give the Nittany Lions bulletin board material; he just doesn’t want their focus anywhere but the game.
“It’s just not another weekend,” Narduzzi said. “All the talk should be about the game and the matchups, and I think you guys know what you’re going to do there. But it’s a big game, it really is, and I want our guys locked in. It’s an in-state rivalry, at least for us, and we’re going to prepare for it that way.”
▪ Narduzzi complimented the Nittany Lions’ offense in his opening statement, calling Joe Moorhead’s group “explosive” and well-coached.
Narduzzi said Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley are a “heck of a quarterback” and “heck of a running back,” respectively, and that Barkley “can do it all.”
“You’ve got two guys in the backfield that you must stop,” the former Michigan State defensive coordinator added. “Trace did a lot of running (against Akron). I’d anticipate him continuing to carry the ball. They brought the backup quarterback package with him. I’m sure they’ll have some new packages we haven’t seen.”
▪ Narduzzi is taking the underdog role and running with it.
Penn State opens as 20-point favorites at home against the Panthers, who needed overtime to beat Youngstown State in their season opener.
Narduzzi is fine with Pitt being the underdog, claiming it didn’t make a difference when the Panthers were underdogs in 2016 — even though his team was actually favored in the 42-39 win.
Regardless, Narduzzi is seemingly embracing the doubters.
“The odds are against us. I’m not blind to that,” Narduzzi said. “We’re just going to play the game. We’re just going to play football. There’s no hate here. I know that. But I don’t think there’s any hate there, either.”